Universities become friendlier to families

The family leave reform promotes equal parenthood at the universities.

The legislation reform on family leave entered into force at the start of August. In this spring’s collective agreement negotiations, the universities found a historic consensus on the family leave reform. The collective agreement determines, for example, the period of time the employer pays a salary to the birthing parent and the non-birthing parent.

“The university employers deserve credit for this. This is the first collective agreement with the family leave reform implemented in full”, says Tarja Niemelä, Executive Director of the Finnish Union of University Professors.

Full implementation means that any employee entitled to pregnancy allowance is paid a salary for 40 days starting from the pregnancy allowance period. Correspondingly, independently of the family configuration, the non-birthing parent receives a salary for 32 workdays during parental leave. Before the reform, salary was paid to the non-birthing parent for six workdays. For an employee to qualify for salary payments during pregnancy or family leave, their employment must have lasted a continuous three months at minimum immediately before their respective leave.

With the reform, the universities become increasingly pro-family employers. The Finnish Union of University Professors predicts that family leave will be used more often than before. Family leave should also be taken into account better in work arrangements.

“Most professors work in a supervising role. When all the family leave dates are known, supervisors are able to note them when devising work plans. For birthing parents, leave is easier to predict, but the reform means non-birthing parents’ must also be considered in work plans.”

However, for international academics coming to Finland, the family leave reform is just one attractive factor. It is vital to also take care of the bigger picture. The attractiveness of the Finnish universities is determined more significantly by what the work entails and what the employment terms are.

“The length of the employment contract is most important, especially with fixed-term contracts. The longer your employment is, the more secure you can feel when coming to Finland with your family or while starting a family”, says Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ) Special Advisor Hanna Tanskanen.

Finnish employees enjoy solid benefits in their collective agreements. Paid leave, annual leave and sick leave are longer than in many other countries.

“The family leave reform is meant to improve equality. Finland wants to be seen as a family-friendly country and the universities as family-friendly employers”, says Mia Weckman, Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers (FUURT) Director of Advocacy.

This is why the universities’ collective agreement reached a consensus on full paid family leave. As such, Weckman believes that in time, family leave will be used more and more.

“Increased equality in families is also what the legislator wants.”

Text: Anna-Kaisa Asuja

Images: Istockphoto

Translation: Marko Saajanaho

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